There is a single rose in a tiny vase this birthday morning, alongside a cup of tea delivered to my bedside by my partner. The symbolism for me of this particular rose is complex, and a potent mix of love and loss.
Since 2012, May for me has been a month of contrasts. My birthday on the 24th is a day of celebration. There is love and kindness from my partner and step-children, warm text messages and cards, along with WhatsApp calls from friends and family both near and far.
For this lockdown birthday and without the possibility of meeting for lunch in a favourite restaurant, the flowers from Bloom & Wild delivered through our letterbox, and the Sunday evening dinner and cake cooked and hand delivered to the doorstep, have taken on a deeper layer of thoughtfulness.
May is also the month that my mother, Laura May, died eight years ago, just six days after my birthday. I had received no card or phone call from her that year which had saddened and worried me deeply. She lived on the Spanish island of Majorca, and, at 92, her body had begun to shut down. Knowing that she was in the final stages of her life, I had arranged to fly out again on the evening of May 30, three weeks after my last trip, (suspecting this might be one of my final visits).
Mid-morning on the 30th I received a call from her carer in Majorca, my mother had passed away thirty minutes earlier. Heartbroken, I flew out, arriving near midnight to spend the night alone in the apartment from which her body had been removed only a few hours earlier.
Returning to London three weeks later, exhausted from everything I had had to sort out and numb with grief, I began to think about what to plant in her memory in our garden. Mum had spent many summers with us, sitting on her favourite bench underneath the kitchen windows with a book or gin and tonic, enjoying the peace. She loved flowers and plants, especially roses. I discovered a rose called, “A Mum in A Million”, a medium pink hybrid tea variety, with a strong fragrance. We found a local garden centre with the rose, and the perfect pot.
Over the last eight years, the rose, perhaps wishing it was earth rather than pot bound, has struggled valiantly to make a big splash, rarely managing to produce more than one or two heads. When it does flower it is divine, each bloom lipstick pink, with fragrance like a warm hug.
For my birthday this year, just one perfect bud unfolded, just in time. I like to believe it wanted to share my day, and help me keep the memories of a mum in a million alive and strong.